For many online merchants, the holidays account for almost half their yearly sales. Small and medium-sized online merchants have a prime opportunity this gift-giving season to attract new customers and keep them coming back throughout the year.
From browsing to buying, the Internet will play a larger role than ever in holiday shopping this year according to a new survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch. Shoppers, who are expected to spend US$791.10 each this year on holiday merchandise, said they will use the Internet on average for over a fourth (28.9 percent) of their shopping.
From utilizing tested promotions to bundling products, there are many ways for small and medium-sized businesses to generate customer interest this year and attract the attention of online shoppers. Here are a few tips to help kick off a successful holiday selling season.
1. Help customers find you by listing items on shopping search engines and sites.
Customers are online searching for unique gifts on various search engines and sites. Take advantage of listing product on sites like eBay, Yahoo Shopping, Shopping.com, Shopzilla and Google Base/Froogle to help customers find your products and drive them back to your site.
Some e-commerce solutions have management tools that can automatically list a product catalog on shopping sites. Investigate the options available to you in your storefront solution.
2. Use products and promotions that work.
Businesses should use products and promotions that merchants have found to resonate well with customers. Any product and promotion testing should be completed before Thanksgiving. The holidays aren’t the time to try new trends; an untested promotion or new site feature may inadvertently drive away traffic, which is the opposite of what merchants want to do at any time — but especially during the holidays.
3. Instill customer confidence by providing a safe shopping experience.
Merchants should always focus on providing a safe shopping experience for consumers — doing so can help online retailers increase sales.
Two of the most important safety features include safeguarding any consumer information through high levels of security and encryption, and providing a safe payment method.
PayPal is a good choice, since privacy is built right into its service. PayPal never discloses buyers’ financial information with merchants — this information is guarded on PayPal’s own security systems, so merchants don’t even have to take on the responsibility of guarding customers’ financial data.
4. Make sure you’re ready to attract and service customers.
Merchants are becoming more comfortable with managing their store design, and they are spending more time on store aesthetics. Small businesses have the ability to compete with big-box online retailers, but need to have the professional look and services expected of a large firm. These offerings include:
- Nicely displayed and clearly labeled products
- Shipping costs that are easy to understand and calculate
- Customer service that responds within 24 hours
There are many innovative ways to promote holiday shopping on the Internet. With a little creativity and a lot of testing, merchants can be on their way to building a solid customer base this holiday season that will last all year long.
Julian Green is the director of ProStores, an eBay company that enables small and medium-sized businesses to sell products and services online through a completely customizable virtual storefront at their own Internet domain.